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Torcello basilica: a Millennium Exhibition

Torcello basilica: Diocesan Museum

The light of Byzantinum, the color of Torcello and the gold of Venice: these are the elements that help define Venice's Origins Between West and East, the exhibition Venice had long waited for and that has recently opened at the Diocesan Museum. It is the mian event in the program that opened in 2008 and celebrates a thousand years of history at the one of the most important monuments around the Venice Lagoon (and arguably the oldest) the Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta on Torcello. Its architectonic and decorative elements, which adorn its interior and are the fines examples of Venetian-Byzantine art, are the subject of this exhibition, presented by the National Millennium Committee established by the Ministry of Cultural Heritage.

The Torcello basilica, with the Episcopal complex - Torcello once hosted the local bishops' residences - and the adjacent Rotunda of Santa Fosca are all that remains from an entire city founded around the 4th century by residents of the old Altino Who settled here to find refuge from the Lombard invasion. Its history, not entirely certain even today, goes back to the year 639 - according to an inscription on a foundation stone (which some scholars argue is the first written Venetian document). But this dating is only hypothetical. Concrete evidence dates the building of the Basilica to the year 1008. At that time Torcello was already an important urban settlement with plenty of buildings, civic and religious, a center of all commercial activities around the lagoon.

The exhibition tells the story of this settlement with the help of a hundred-odd works grouped in a number of sections, beginning from the 5th to the 7th centures with clear evidence of Roman residential centers in the upper Adriatic such as Aquileia, Altino, Grado, Pola and Ravenna. There are sculptures, the first from a local lagoon art, and mosaics, represented by a monumental Last Judgment that is stuided here extesively with the help of a special digital reproduction.

A few fragments of this mosaic which peeled off during the 19th Century and are kept today in a various museums, are accompained by Byzantine and Venetian mosaics coming form the lagoon area, from Greece and from the Adriatic coast. The show includes a section decicated to liturgical services, celebrated on Torcello during its goldend age and evoked by illuminated codices, reliquaries and procession crosses; it closes with a section dedicated to the icon and to its particular Venetian evolution.

 

If you wish to see the exhibition, please note that the museum that hosts it (and incorporates the splendid old Church of SS. Filippo e Giacomo), stands right behind the St. Marks's Square Basilica, in the complex of Cloister of Sant' Appollonia. The museum is open daily from 10am to 6pm and costs 5 euro, it allows you to enter the Basilica of Torcello as well.

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